Monday, 17 January 2011

The Kenya Experience

Hi folks

Much to update you about on here as per normal, where to start… well first of all in terms of racing I’ve raced a couple of times already this year, one was a local race in Guernsey on the famous soil that is the Full Course race on New Years day (course so called due to using part of the L’Ancresse Common horse racing course…so I’m told) and the other was representing Great Britain in the snowy fields that were the BUPA Edinburgh XC Team Challenge. The latter is a new event held within the normal Edinburgh XC event that I ran in last year. Both went well in the whole scheme of things, whilst not particularly setting the world alight I wasn’t expecting to be in peak shape right now, that will be saved for the London Marathon in April which I will be running again this year. Whilst I am now back in full training I have not been placing too much emphasis on the harder workouts up to this point as I wanted to make sure my body was willing and able after a long 2010 season, the Edinburgh race signified the start of a new training cycle and the start of my London build up.

I am now currently in Kenya, as some followers may know, I am on the UKA/London Marathon altitude training camp in Iten, Kenya. Iten is small village approx 30miles from Eldorat and has a history of producing great Kenyan athletes. Where we are staying is Lorna Kiplagat’s place and is known as the HATC (High Altitude Training Centre), although Lorna now represents Holland due to marrying a dutchmen (Pieter) who runs the place, she is still a hero in these parts. Many famous Kenyan athletes have originated from here or are based here, to name them would take forever plus there are many lesser-know Kenyan athletes that train here in the numerous groups that you see out every morning on the trails. Many of these guys would be good enough to walk into any other counties national squad but they are just one of many. The world rankings for the marathon speaks for themselves with more than half of the worlds top 200 coming from Kenya alone. Running is just a way of life out here, I heard this morning that something like 4000 people live in Iten and something like 1000 of them run! Myself and John Beattie joined one (of the many) training groups for an easy run last Friday… there was approx 50 in the group, also to give you an idea one of the standard the slowest guys in the group was a 2.17 marathon runner.

It really is a running mecca out here and you can’t fail to be inspired by the environment. It’s a very friendly and safe environment too, on every run you see literally hundreds of kids along the red dusty trials (which leave your shoes permanently red in colour). There seems to be lots of schools out here for the size of the place and all the kids shout out ‘how are you’ in their cute African accents, many run alongside you when you run past them or want high 5's as you pass them. The other day one of them grabbed Steff (Twell’s) hand and just wanted to ran with her for a few minutes like this, they also love it when you response to them too… hakuna-Matata is a good one! (think Lion king here). There is certainly no obesity out here too, few people can afford a car and all the kids walk or run to school around here. So not only are they living at 2400m above sea level but they also run everywhere partly because they have too but they also seem to love it too. Furthermore I have been here one week now and I’m yet to hear any kids crying or whining, they just get on with things.

Lorna’s place where we are staying at (the HATC) has everything you need but is fairly basis compared with western world luxury. Every rooms has 2 single beds per room with its own toilet and shower, it can be the luck of draw as to whether you get hot water some days but like I say its all we really need and any Kenyan would consider where are a complete luxury. The food is pretty good, there’s always plenty of it and meals change daily with plenty of rice dishes, lentils, beefs stews, salads and occasionally fish. Meats such as chicken are used sparingly but the beef stews are good and go down well. Desert which we have after every evening meal is pretty much always fresh fruit, grown locally as is pretty much all of the food here. We have however found a more westernised place to go for the occasional treat… Keiro View, which is restaurant (which also has accommodation) that overlooks the Rift Valley, we went there the other day and it has breath taking views. I posted a picture up on my twitter page, unfortunately internet can be a little slow so I won’t be posting up any other pic’s at the moment.

In terms of training we are meeting every morning for a 7am run (6am if you want to run with the Kenyan’s) before breakfast, the only exceptions are key session days when we start the warm up at 9.30am or the long run day which is at 9am, this is so we can get some breakfast in first. Training for me personally is going pretty well, you have to respect the altitude for the first few days otherwise it will break you but I think I have adapted quite well. It can be tough trying to regulate your breathing initially though and any hill soon gets you breathing hard and they are plenty of them out here, flat sections are few and far between.

I am now one week in with just less than 3 to go…I have a very understanding wife, who also had to move house without out me last week, technically making us homeless for a week or so whilst our new purchase is being sorted out. She is a bit of a star, although she tells me that she is banking all my trips away for when I retire from running!

Unfortunately there are other downsides to being away for so long too, as well as missing my family in general is that I seem to be missing out on my sons new daily antic’s… he has now mastered the art of climbing out of his cot, oh and he can pee standing up too now! He seems to be coping well without me and whilst I get a quick chat on the phone with him a few days a week as like most children he soon loses interest and is off playing with toys rather than speak to me.

Another bummer is that I will miss out on just about every awards night going in Guernsey, I have been nominated for an award at the Guernsey Sports Commissions Awards, as well as the SportingBet Channel Island Sports Personality of the Year and I have also been short listed for the Ambassador of Year Award at the Guernsey Achievement Awards…no laughing please! No seriously it’s a real honour to be nominated for any one of these awards let alone all three, I am very proud of where I come from and it’s always special to get any sort of recognition locally, whether that be winning awards or just simply being nominated. I can’t think of a more supportive place I’d rather live than Guernsey. Only a few weeks before xmas a complete stranger stop me on a run and told me that he had a lump in his throat watching me cross the line during the TV coverage of the London marathon.

Anyway I better go as its time for some dinner, I will try posting up next week with more details and perhaps give you a further idea of the training and what a typical day consists of.

That’s all for now folks.